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For the Reader

December 14, 2009

I have a thing for bookstores. And not just because You’ve Got Mail has been on my “top five favorite movies” list since 1999. (although I’m sure that helps)

I’ve spent my fair share of time in bookstores, too.

Monday night “Bible Study” with a group of four high school girls I mentored. (We had every intention of deep discussion of the Bible, but without doubt each week turned into deep discussion and encouragement of the trials each girl was facing. It was the best support group I’ve ever belonged too- Me and four high school juniors.)

Meeting with friends who barely knew each other to question Jesus and belief and undertanding and the Bible. To drink coffee and share cookies and disect the word promise. To debate and agree and feel like we were getting somewhere and to disagree. To open our eyes to each others’ up bringings, to each others’ stories, to each others’ beliefs.

Double-Date nights to the childrens section to play “I Spy” and “Where’s Waldo” and pick out books for future children. To share our favorite childhood stories, and find solace in Todd Parr’s The Peace Book.

Quality roommate time with stacks of magazines we were much too poor to purchase, and much to interested to ignore. Chosing our dream living rooms in Elle Decor, pouring over Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living recipes and tips, and, of course, being fully invested in the pages of People.

Many lonely evenings when I didn’t know a soul in town, and instead of trying to seek friendship in community, would hide out in the stacks, reading entire books in an evening- complete series’ in a months-time. Leaving work each night to go search the shelves for my next choice, and staying until close.

Preparing for a week full of postings at a table facing a window- indulging in a piece of carrot cake and a warm, soul healing tea as I tried desperately to forget that I was once again in a town where I knew no one, and once again feeling so alone.

I love a big bookstore, even if it makes me a Fox. (F-O-X) I love the big cozy arm chairs where I can sit cross legged and flip through art books gathering ideas and suggestions for what I’ll make next. I love the journals section with a giant selection of words yet to be written – the promise of new creation, new stories, new documentation. I love being able to inspect the bargin area for the next addition to my neverending collection of books I will read someday, which seems to be taking over a few shelves in my kitchen.

I love small independant book stores. They all have fabulous names you could have never thought of yourself. With lots of detailed staff recommendations. And toys and gifts to go along with it all. You can only take your time in a store as such. The doors, the walls, the shelves are captivating- inviting you in and never allowing you to want to leave. I want to stay forever, reading the back cover of every single book displayed- because you know they were handpicked. Someone in this store asked specificly for 3 copies of this book, and not because it was on the best sellers list, or it is by a famous author, but because it means something. Like Nancy Drew, I am determined to seek until I find what exactly it means, to him, to her, and on most days as I make my way to the register, to me.

I love the smell of old, used bookstores. Paul’s on State Street in Madison was always a favorite while I was in town. Running my hands through the stacks, over each cover until I found something that peaked my interest. Judging books by their covers- but not by their photo or title, but by how much love the old canvas covers had enjoyed by their previous owners. Allowing myself to drift off and imagine – how many times did a mother read a Mother Goose’s fairytale to her child from this pale blue, ratty covered collection of fables. How much laughter was shared as each page was turned. How many gasps of surprise. How many lessons learned.

I love a bookstore this time of year. With twinkly lights and garland lining the register, carols playing throughout, and a simple “happy holidays” from the clerk as you make your purchase. Peppermint Brownies and Eggnog Latte’s at the cafe, as neighbors share stories of what Santa will bring this year. The Polar Express and Holidays on Ice on display, near a display of “Christmas Toys for every girl and boy”.

I do a lot of my Christmas shopping at book stores. I’m sure my family is not surprised by this, as their gift requirements in my eyes are “not bulky and fabulous”. Year after year they’ve received DVDs and CDs and Books- all which can easily fit in my carryon suitcase. All of which I can purchase at one bookstore or another. And as I am preparing to finish my Christmas shopping this week, I thought I would give some insight for a few of you who may not have spent as much time in bookstores as I have. A few of my all time favorite books that would make some FABULOUS holiday gifts- for anyone you cherish (including yourself!)

Jen Lancaster’s latest release, Pretty in Plaid DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. So much so, that I’m reading it for the 2nd time. I am all about giving gifts that compliment each other and I can’t stop thinking about how wonderfully this book would looked wrapped up in a plaid bag with some nice argyle socks to match the cover. If you haven’t read Jen Lancaster’s other books (here, here, and here) you should definetely get on it. She is hilarious, and I am super excited to see what she comes up with next.


No books have every made me question my thinking the way Shane Claiborne and Robb Bell have with their books Irresistable Revolution and Velvet Elvis. These are two books I should reread every single year to make sure I am living life the way I should – pouring love out of me onto those who deserve it (EVERYONE (even and especially the people I foolishly wish didn’t deserve it)) and living with purpose. I can’t recommend them enough.

My friend Marcus recommended this book months ago, and I listened to it on CD over the summer- it was FABULOUS. Neal Gabler’s biography of Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination is a fabulous recollection of the man and the wonderful world of Disney we all know now. I absolutely LOVED learning about “all things Mr. Disney” and I plan on rereading/listening to it before my next trip to Walt Disney World (an idea I grabbed from my wonderful friend, Marcus.) If one of your loved ones are planning a trip or are as obsessed with Disney as can be (cough, mother, cough) this would be a perfect gift for them!

This is another book I listened to on CD over the summer- and it had my heart MELTING. No matter your political stances, I Love You, Ronnie Nancy Reagan’s sharing of the love letters between her and President Reagan will make you believe in true love all over again. If there is one book I could suggest purchasing the audio book for- it would be this one. Hearing the letters read in a male and female voice, as written, take you deep into the complexity and intensity of their relationship. This book would be perfect given to your special someone, or to a couple celebrating their first Christmas together. Pure Bliss to my heart!


If you have a high school senior on your “to shop for” list, buy them Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. If you’ve read it, you know why. (it’s a must read). If you haven’t, then you should – even if you are far out of high school. Chbosky also wrote the screen play for the movie version of the musical Rent – another of my favorites. I would love to tie the two together in a bundle- and if I was Oprah, you’d all be getting one for the Holidays. Another great gift to tie to this book would be a DVD copy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show– as its mentioned several times in the book. (and now I want to do the Time Warp)
Easily my favorite movie, The Family Stone would make a perfect Holiday gift for ANYONE. (i may or may not have two copies). Make it a bundle gift by adding a couple of other Christmas-Themed fabulous movies- The Holiday & Love Actually, for example – and you’ve got yourself a winning gift.

I’m usually a non-fiction, memoir kind of girl, but Marisa de los Santos’ novel Loved Walked In and the follow up Belong to Me are EASILY my two favorite reads of the last year. She really knocked it out of the park with these. Wonderful character development, terrific story line, and relationships that go WAY BEYOND the often-read-love interest- these two novels should be on everyone’s “must read” list. Buy the set for your best girlfriend or as a gift to yourself. Everyone deserves to have Love walk in on them- and reading these books will make you believe it has through the words on each page.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Any suggestions for what I should be reading next?
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8 Comments leave one →
  1. MelissaNibbles permalink
    December 14, 2009 2:22 pm

    Three Cups Of Tea by Greg Mortensen is my fave book. It's the story of man's mission to bring education girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Amazing story.

  2. Jessica permalink
    December 14, 2009 2:24 pm

    I have always been a huge fan of bookstores. I remember sitting in them for hours at the mall while my mom shopped. I would read Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley High. The best book I read this year was called Firefly Lane. Amazing story about mothers and daughters, and friendship. I cried for the last 25 pages, which is so unsual for me.

  3. Mellissa permalink
    December 14, 2009 2:54 pm

    Thank you for all of these suggestions! My favorite books of 2009 were- Pillars of the EarthWorld Without EndSarah's KeyThe Girl with the Dragoon Tatoo

  4. mlp permalink
    December 14, 2009 4:27 pm

    "You've Got Mail" is my go-to sick movie. If I'm feeling even the least bit icky, I pop that in the DVD player. Close to where my apartment in DC was this used bookstore. It was three stories (including the basement) but was still TINY and absolutely CRAMMED with books. They were separated by subject, but not much else after that. It was basically impossible to find anything yourself (But the owner somehow knew every single book he had AND where it was located. I was astounded every time.) It was maddeningly frustrating and not for the OCD-of-heart, but it was a great store.And I still adore that Disney biography. Just a quick note, that book is a MONSTER. It's something like 800-900 pages, I think. It takes up half a bookshelf. But Walt Disney was a fascinating character (and a complex and conflicted one). He deserves all those pages. Great book.Finally, I loved that Reagan book (I read it on your suggestion). It was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Seriously beautiful.

  5. mlp permalink
    December 14, 2009 4:30 pm

    Oh! Best books I read this year."Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers. I posted about it a while ago, it's a true-story about a man in post-Katrina New Orleans. It's a page-turner and incredibly eye-opening. Prepare to question a lot of things, though."The Prince of Frogtown" by Rick Bragg. Easily my favorite writer, Bragg just has a way of telling a (Southern) story that slays me every single time. Anytime I'm feeling like the South is backwards or a bad place to live, I read him and he reminds me why it's such an incredible region.

  6. Tracey- TropicalHappiness.com permalink
    December 14, 2009 5:07 pm

    I love reading, so thanks for the suggestions. I'll have to add those to my list. I love love love going into bookstores, but I have the bad habit of buying books every time I'm there. I have about 10 books sitting around on my "must read" list. I have some time off work for the holidays, so I'll try to catch up then!Have you read "Still Alice"? I thought that was good. So is "Water for Elephants."

  7. Kayla J permalink
    December 15, 2009 4:31 am

    I pretty much adored this post, Miss Heather.Both for the general discussion and suggestions. :)I agree with the suggestion above of Water for Elephants! Though I read that a couple years ago – it's amazing, I think.I'm definitely more of a fiction reader myself, so my recommendations might not work out for you, but I'll throw them out there anyway. :)The Effects of Light by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore – I actually am currently re-reading this one right now because I loved it so much!I also enjoyed The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.Also, though they're more suited to a younger crowd, (though, you cited Wallflower, so I don't feel so bad – incidentally, I did NOT like Wallflower and don't understand why it has such a huge following. Guess I missed something there…) but anything by Sarah Dessen is good, particularly The Truth About Forever or Lock and Key.

  8. Anonymous permalink
    December 15, 2009 11:54 pm

    I really enjoyed Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: a great selection of short stories about a common group of people. Makes you look at old people in a whole new wayThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by M. Shaffer & A. Barrows. Interesting format since it is all told in letters.My choice for most interesting, tug-at-your-heartstrings book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The writing style is great, the story is unusual and the characters are unforgettable.

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